Austin ESL students have writings published

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2003

With Cira Cervantes' words, readers can visualize life in her hometown.

People can relate to Fabiola Vazquez's experience in her essay about difficulties in finding a job.

Their short stories are written in the English they have learned the past two years in Austin's Adult Basic Education program and from life experience during their time in the United States.

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And those stories have been published. Cervantes short story is in "To Open Your Mind," a collection of writings and artwork from adult learners in Minnesota. Vazquez's short story was published in the March edition of "Easy English News," a newspaper for English as a Second Language students.

And they're not alone. Three other ESL students in Austin had their works published in "To Open Your Mind." Austin resident Vladimir Honco, who is from the Czech Republic, wrote about his dog that he had to leave behind when he came to the United States. Pablo Davila and Jose Luis Contreras have since returned to Mexico after submitting their writings.

The Minnesota Literacy Council has published the book for the past 14 years. Literacy teachers from across the state submit writings and artwork and all students are published. This year's is the largest with 323 submissions.

"When you see your own name in print that's a boost to your English skills," said Lois Hancock, ESL teacher for Austin Adult Basic Education at Woodson Community School.

Thursday was Cervantes' last day in ESL class, but she plans to attend Riverland Community College. She moved to Austin two years ago and works at Austin Packaging Company.

She said she was very happy to see her story printed.

"The people here don't know how we live in our country," Cervantes said of her story.

Her story describes her life in Tecoyame de Guadalupe, Guerrero. When she was growing up, her town did not have electricity, but she notes how much has changed since them.

"My hometown is growing so fast," Cervantes writes.

Cervantes said she misses her family, but said some of her siblings live in Austin.

She plans to write again for the Minnesota Literacy book, this time about her sister who died at 24 while giving birth.

She said she has enjoyed ESL classes in Austin.

"It's a very good place to come and learn English," she said.

Earlier this year, Hancock gave Vazquez a form to submit an essay to the Easy English News, which is produced in New Jersey. The form asked students to write about their jobs and Vazquez wrote about how hard it was to find work in Austin. She worked for a short time at Austin Packaging, but now stays home to take care of her two children. Her husband still works at Austin Packaging.

"It's a little hard to get a job here," said Vazquez, a Mexican native who has been in the United States for five years.

Not every writing sent in to the Easy English News is guaranteed to run, Hancock said.

"I didn't know Fabiola was going to be published," Hancock said. "The newspaper was a real surprise. I was so excited when I saw that."

Vazquez and Cervantes take ESL twice a week in a joint program with the Early Childhood Family Education program, also offered at Woodson.

"It's very good because here I have the opportunity to learn English," Vazquez said.

Vazquez and Cervantes said goodbye to their teacher Thursday, Vazquez until the next session starts and Cervantes for the last time. Hancock said Cervantes was a good student and is sad to see her go.

"She's really ready to go on to Riverland," Hancock said, smiling.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at